The odds were against a comeback by Palm as it prepared to make news at the Consumer Electronics Show. The smartphone space suddenly got crowded by the big names - iPhone, Blackberry, Android. And poor Palm - a pioneer in PDAs and smartphones - got pushed to the bottom.
But the early word out of Vegas is that Palm has hit a home run with Pre, its newest smartphone, and webOS, its new operating system. I'll refrain from calling it an "iPhone killer" because I truly don't think it will be. But, as Matthew Miller points out in his posting, it could be a strong contender for the second-best category of smartphones.
I like that it has both a touch-screen and a sliding QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode. It has the WiFi that I'd hoped the Blackberry Storm would have had. And it has a cool feature called Synergy, which keeps contacts organized from multiple sources - Google, Facebook, etc. I was sort of bummed to see that it was launching exclusively with Sprint, another company that's lost its luster in recent years, but couldn't help but wonder if the Pre is the homerun that it's being made out to be, that might convince some people to switch back.
Availability is vague - first half of 2009 - and I haven't come across any details on pricing. But I did raise an eyebrow when I read an entry on Media Memo. Peter Kafka writes:
The biggest unknown is price, which went unmentioned during the demo. My assumption is that Palm (PALM) would try to take market share by coming in significantly lower than the $200 or so Apple wants for its iPhone. But when I ran that theory by Palm CEO Ed Colligan, he looked at me liked I’d peed on his rug. “Why would we do that when we have a significantly better product,” he asked, then walked away. Translation: Bargain hunters are going to be disappointed.
I don't know enough about Pre or the new OS to make any predictions on how it will do in the competitive world of smartphones. But I will congratulate the company - a long-time presence here in Silicon Valley - for hitting one out of the park at CES, even if just from a PR perspective. Congratulations, Palm. You sparked a lot of glowing headlines today (It's been a while) and you've built up some excitement and anticipation about your product. We're looking forward to hearing more.